• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
    —ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

I’ve Finished Writing BEES…!


Important Update: Just a few weeks after I posted this blog entry below, a publication date of November 23, 2021, was announced for GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE by my publisher, Penguin Random House.

Please read my newer blog entry about the publication date announcement, or visit my BEES webpage for current information about this new book.


2021-03-29-what-finished-means-DGI’ve finished writing GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, as of March 27, 2021! Now this new book enters the publication process, outlined below, which will likely take months (a guesstimate only).

Please keep in mind that I do not set the publication date, the day when you can buy the book at a bookstore. That date will be decided by my publishers. Stay tuned!

Thanks!

What Finished Means To An Author

As my husband often remarks, "‘FINISHED’ is a relative term to a writer."

This is true! <g> I thought y’all might be interested in Just What Happens to a book after the writer is “finished” writing the manuscript:

(NB: This is the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Owing to the tight Production schedule—such as there was for MOBY (Book 8) and THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, Volume 2—a lot of these steps have been done concurrently, rather than sequentially, and a few repetitive steps have been skipped. But by and large, this is how it works.)

  1. Books don’t go directly from the author to the bookstore.
  2. Books go from the author to the editor, who
    1. reads the manuscript
    2. discusses the manuscript with the author, and
    3. suggests minor (we hope) revisions that may improve the book
  3. The book goes back to the author, who

    1. re-reads the manuscript
    2. considers the editor’s comments, and
    3. makes whatever revisions, emendments, or clarifications seem right.
  4. The book goes back to the editor, who

    1. reads it again
    2. asks any questions that seem necessary, and
    3. Sends it to
  5. The copy-editor. This is a person whose thankless job is to

    1. read the manuscript one…word…at…a…time
    2. find typos or errors in grammar, punctuation, or continuity (one heck of a job, considering the size not only of the individual books, but of the overall series), and
    3. apply “house style” to things like numbers (e.g. do we write “two” or “2”?), and
    4. write queries to the author regarding anything questionable, whereupon
  6. The book comes back to the author—yes, again— who

    1. re-reads the manuscript
    2. answers the copy-editor’s queries, and
    3. alters anything that the copy-editor has changed that the author disagrees with, and
    4. adds things inspired by the copy-editor’s comments that seem like a good idea. After which, the author sends it back to
  7. The editor—yes, again!—who

    1. re-re-reads it
    2. checks that all the copy-editor’s queries have been answered, and sends it to
  8. The Typesetter (aka Compositor, these days), who sets the manuscript in type, according to the format laid out by
  9. 2021-03-29-the-end

  10. The Book-Designer, who

    1. decides on the layout of the pages (margins, gutters, headers or footers, page-number placement)
    2. chooses a suitable and attractive typeface
    3. decides on the size of the font, leading and kerning
    4. chooses or commissions any incidental artwork (endpapers, maps, dingbats—these are the little gizmos that divide chunks of text, but that aren’t chapter or section headings)—or, for something like the OC II, a ton of miscellaneous illustrations, photographs, etc. that decorate or punctuate the text.
    5. Designs chapter and Section headings, with artwork, and consults with the

      (NB: People always want to know how many pages the book will be. This depends entirely on the Book Designer’s decisions, so there’s no telling ahead of time. The font, leading, kerning (leading and kerning are, respectively, the amount of space between lines and between letters) and page layout will all affect how many words fit on a page.)

  11. Cover Artist, who (reasonably enough) designs or draws or paints or PhotoShops the cover art (this often happens earlier in the process, but I put it here for convenience), which is then sent to
  12. The Printer, who prints the dust-jackets—which include not only the cover art and the author’s photograph and bio, but also "flap copy," which may be written by either the editor or the author (I usually write my own), but is then usually messed about with by
  13. The Marketing Department, whose thankless task is to try to figure out how best to sell a book that can’t reasonably be described in terms of any known genre <g>, to which end, they

    1. try to provide seductive and appealing cover copy to the book (which the author normally approves. I usually insist on writing it myself).
    2. compose advertisements for the book (author usually sees and approves these—or at least I normally do).
    3. decide where such advertisements might be most effective (periodicals, newspapers, book-review sections, radio, TV, Facebook, Web)
    4. try to think up novel and entertaining means of promotion, such as having the author appear on a cooking show to demonstrate recipes for unusual foods mentioned in the book.
    5. kill a pigeon in Times Square and examine the entrails in order to determine the most advantageous publishing date for the book.
  14. OK. The manuscript itself comes back from the typesetter, is looked at (again) by the editor, and sent back to the author (again!), who anxiously proof-reads the galleys (these are the typeset sheets of the book; they look just like the printed book’s pages, but are not bound. (NB: of recent years, galleys are often provided in electronic form)), because this is the very last chance to change anything. Meanwhile

    (Somewhere in here, recording begins on the audiobook, which is normally released at the same time as the hardcover. Ideally, the narrator is given a version of the manuscript that’s pretty close to the ultimate printed form, but they may get earlier or partial versions from which to prepare their performance (choosing accents and pacing for different characters, for instance).)

  15. A number of copies of the galley-proofs are bound—in very cheap plain covers—and sent to (NB: This is SOP, but we haven’t been doing it for the last few books, owing to the fact that the book itself is coming out on the heels of Production; there’s no time to distribute ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies).) (NB: These days, it’s often PDFs, though paper ARCs are still used, too.))
  16. The Reviewers, i.e., the bound galleys (or PDFs) are sent (by the marketing people, the editor, and/or the author) to the book editors of all major newspapers and periodicals, blogs, websites, and to any specialty publication to whom this book might possibly appeal, in hopes of getting preliminary reviews, from which cover quotes can be culled, and/or drumming up name recognition and excitement prior to publication. Frankly, they don’t always bother with this step with my books, because they are in a rush to get them into the bookstores, and it takes several months’ lead-time to get reviews sufficiently prior to publication that they can be quoted on the cover.
  17. With luck, the author finds 99.99% of all errors in the galleys (you’re never going to find all of them; the process is asymptotic—vide the typo in the very last line of MOBY…), and returns the corrected manuscript (for the last time, [pant, puff, gasp, wheeze]) to the editor, who sends it to

    (The ebook coding happens somewhere in here.)

  18. The Printer, who prints lots of copies (“the print-run” means how many copies) of the “guts” of the book—the actual inside text—are printed. These are then shipped to
  19. The Bindery, where the guts are bound into their covers, equipped with dust-jackets, and shipped to
  20. The Distributors. There are a number of companies—Amazon is the largest, but there are a number of smaller ones, and the large publishing houses have their own warehouse facilities, too—whose business is shipping, distributing, and warehousing books. The publisher also ships directly to

    
(1. Arrangements are made in this phase for ebook distribution through retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.)

  21. Bookstores, but bookstores can only house a limited number of books. Therefore, they draw on distributors’ warehouses to resupply a title that’s selling briskly, because it takes much longer to order directly from the publisher. And at this point, [sigh]… the book finally reaches
  22. You, the reader.

And we do hope you like it when you get it—because we sure-God went to a lot of trouble to make it for you. <g>


Click here to visit my Writer’s Corner (What I Do) webpage…


Images are by Diana Gabaldon. The top image shows printed book manuscripts. The bottom image shows a screen from her word processing software.

This blog post includes an updated version of “What Finished Means To An Author,” an essay that I have posted several times in the past. This new version was also posted on my official Facebook page on Monday, March 29, 2021.

107 Responses »

  1. Yessss!! I’m so excited!! And so happy you put in about audio books! I love listening and I was so worried it would have to wait even longer!

  2. YAY! I can’t express how excited I am that the book has been finished! I have read the series 3 times and I am so looking forward to “Tell the Bees I Am Gone “so very much, I’ve missed all the characters and can’t wait to see what happens with them all. Thank you for all your hard work!

  3. I can’t express my delight to read “I’ve Finished Writing BEES…!”. I actually squealed out loud! I have read the full series four times and have watched the shows more times than I can count. I believe your writing has a direct connection with my brain pathways. I obviously love the story of Jamie and Claire and now I have been very interested in seeing where William’s path leads him. I am really enjoying the development of this character in adulthood and all the complications his circumstances bring.
    Thank you!

  4. Dear Mrs. Diana!!!
    Most excellent of news on the discovery of the sequence of events that must transpire prior to our adventures recommencing with the long adored and heartily enjoyed saga of Claire & Jamie et al. I was introduced to your Outlander story during my tenure in nursing school back in 2001 & have long loved these masterpieces!!!
    Unfortunately, with the wonderful introduction of the television series, Outlander, I no longer remember how all of the characters once looked in my mind based on your lovely and thorough character development. Thank you for your astute attention to detail & your ability to never let the audience down. Each work of yours is delightful & engaging in every GOD given sense. Thank you for your tireless and no doubt painful labor (due to your dear shoulder injury). It is very much appreciated and anticipated. Many blessings on you, your dear husband Doug & family. With love, heather

  5. Oh my Goodness, what a rigmarole! Having read all of your previous books at least twice, I have no sympathy for your editor – a lucky, lucky person! To read your work in it’s rawest form, then collaborate (to a limited extent) on its final form to deliver to excited readers. I’m sure I’m not the only one of your fans hopping from foot to foot in eager anticipation. But I do wonder if you are heartily sick of it all by the time you are reading your final final final version?

  6. Dear Ms Gabaldon,
    Congratulations on finishing the book # 9, what a wonderful surprise. You must be exhausted, all the effort you put into research, contemplation and the writing itself. I am so looking forward to seeing the book at the local bookstore here in Germany, thank you for brightening up a long, cold winter, now spring certainly is on its way, together with the BEES! Best regards from Europe.

  7. Yay! So excited to see an update. I swear I’ve been checking in once a month for the past year! With any luck, I’m hoping the book is out in time for my end of summer vacation. Of course as soon as this one is out we’ll all be impatiently waiting for the next book lol. Thank you for all your hard work and the amazing stories you tell!

  8. Love the books, love the series, waiting for the Bees!
    Thank you Diana!!
    Lots of love from Belgium

  9. Diana, so grateful for your creation. I will be eagerly searching Audible from now until the book appears. Do you know if Davina Porter will again narrate? Thanks again! So exciting!

  10. Hi Diana,
    Congratulations on finishing Bees, it must have been such hard work, hopefully now you can relax a bit. I just wanted to say that I don’t mind waiting for your books, as Outlander/Cross Stitch waited over twenty-five years for me to discover it. When I did finish reading it, I was spellbound and had to read it all over again immediately. I think your writing is wonderful, and the stories you weave are lovely to read. I hope you still enjoy writing after all these years. Thank you for giving the world such a gift.
    Cheers, Esme.

  11. Dear Diana;
    This is wonderful news about your new Outlander Book. You see, I have read your books, and by the way you are a wonderful author; and in reading your books I have developed a special friendship with your characters. I must admit I was a little sad after finishing “Written In My Own Heart’s Blood” because I thought I would never meet again my friends (the book’s characters) .
    I went out and purchased “Seven Stones To Stand Or Fall” to at least meet again some of my friends as I figured Seven Stones would fill in “The Space Between”, If you catch my drift. I am so happy to see you have a new book coming. I can’t wait until I meet my friends on another Outlander Journey.

    Your Friend,
    Rob Turner

  12. For this trip
    for this passage
    thank you Madam

  13. just a little note to say thank you for all your hard work over the years with your novels. I look forward to book nine whenever the publishers get around to it, big grin and rolling with laughter.

  14. You hooked me at first because I love alternative medicine stories.

    Then you hooked me with the added twist of a modern woman adapting new medical knowledge to low & nonexistent technology.

    Then you hooked me with the brutal look at how women adapt & thrive whenever & where ever they are.

    Let me know asap when I can receive my copy of “Bees” because I have to completely clear my calendar from the moment I get your books in my hands until, bleary eyed, starving, & unbathed, I finish the last chapter.

    Please keep hooking me!

  15. I am waiting with baited breath! I have read all 8 novels twice and still get lost in the story. Being a history buff, I appreciate the accuracy of the historical events intertwined with the fictional story. I may be just a little too obsessed with this series and it is a true testament to you and your talents. I believe I speak for many when I say how happy we are that you have blessed us with this series of novels. I will be sad to see it end but I am sure you will leave your fans with no stone unturned.

  16. I hope that the Bees roll-out goes as smoothly as possible; I am looking forward to it with bated breath. I’m turning a bit blue around the edges, though.
    Thanks for keeping me sane during the Pandemic. I re-read the entire canon to set my mind for Bees. Thanks for creating a universe so diverse and fascinating that I could fall into it and channel my Covid anxiety into something more solid than wondering whether I’d ever see my son and grandkids again. It was a great comfort to remember, at the conclusion of each chapter, that you had already solved the characters’ problems and all I had to do was keep reading and All Would Be Revealed. Bless you. Please keep writing. I would gladly read a Marine Biology text if you wrote it.

  17. Dear Diana, thank you for the update on book 9 of Outlander. I have so been looking forward to it! When I know that a new book is coming out, I usually reread all the books from the first one. (I have already done this in anticipation of book 9 but I think that I will have time to read them again.)

    I edit medical manuscripts, so your description of the publication process struck a chord! It is not quite as lengthy as what you go through, but when I get a particularly stubborn author [who does not think that I know what I am talking about or what the journal requirements are (and I have been editing manuscripts for this particular journal for over 40 years)], there is quite a lot of going back and forth between author and me. And then we come to the typesetters who seem to change from week to week and all want to change what has been sent to them (and not for the better).

    Your Outlander series is absolutely superb. I have bought them as they come out (so they are all first editions) and they occupy a shelf on their own in my library. Are you going to finish the series with book 10? Please write it soon as I shall be 84 this year! Thank you for a wonderful series that I have (and continue to) enjoy and have recommended to countless people. Although I like the Outlander series on television, I still prefer to read a book.

    With many thanks, be safe and stay healthy,

    Marianne

  18. Great news!
    What about translation into an obscure language as swedish? Hope the publisher is prioritizing;) There are quite a lot of words that are a bit of a challenge in the original language. Important though since they give that wonderful flavour and nuance us readers long for! Google translate is a true friend but makes the reading too slow, I am so curious!

  19. Dear Diana,
    Hooray, your book is finally finished!!! I’ve been anxiously waiting for it. So far I have read them in German (a very good translation BTW) but wouldn’t mind getting my hands on the original one ASAP! I just love your books and characters.
    Thank you so much for all those wonderful books (the Lord John series included) that can be read and re-read many times !!!
    All the best from a German fan,
    Dominique

  20. I am beyond excited to hear BEES is done! I’ve been waiting for this book and this book alone! I’m so looking forward to picking up where the twist ending of In My Own Heart’s Blood left off! I want to write more but don’t know the rules for spoilers on here, ha! I’m looking forward to see what Jemmy and Amanda get into in book 9!

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